07/02/2019 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – A committee established by the Egyptian government has approved legalizing 127 churches who were previously operating without a permit. This brings the total number of legalized churches by this committee to 1,021.
The committee is a result of a 2016 law which purported to streamline the legalization process for churches. Egypt has a long history of regulating the building of churches, but many churches were not able to complete this process. Instead, they were built illegally. The 2016 law created the committee which would reportedly legalize all churches existing before 2016—an estimated number just reaching over 3,000.
The government has faced heavy criticism for its slow record of retroactively applying legalization to these existing churches. The 2016 law was supposed to make it easier for new churches to go through the legalization process. However, President Sisi’s government has a worse record than his predecessors when it comes to approving new church buildings.
Most of the Middle East’s Christians live in Egypt, where they are subject to indiscriminate mob violence, discrimination, and other acts of persecution. The federal government has made a number of symbolic gestures towards Christians, but has not taken steps to ensure that the root causes of persecution are addressed on a local level. The official state religion is Islam, leaving Christians to live as second-class citizens.
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